The Eiger Ultra Trail is one of our favorite trail events, and certainly one of the most well-organized. Each year, Run the Alps hosts a week-long guided trip that includes the option to race. (Self-Guided trips, including race entries, are also available.) The races, ranging from 16km to the challenging 101km, all take place on beautiful, rolling single-track through the heart of Switzerland’s Berner Oberland. The views are some of the best of any trail race in the Alps.
Run the Alps recently caught up with our friend, Race Director Ralph Näf, to hear the latest news as he prepared for the seventh edition of what has already become one of the biggest trail race weekends in the Alps. Here’s what he had to say.
Run the Alps: What changes can we look forward to in this year’s edition of the Eiger Ultra races?
Ralph: The most significant change will be improvements to the aid stations along the race routes. We want to provide athletes with nutritious snacks and refreshments that are as natural, organic, and as locally produced as possible – with consideration to vegetarian and vegan diets and athletes with food intolerances, as well.
To achieve this goal, we’re now working with Winforce, a company that produces high-quality products using natural ingredients, all of which are gluten and lactose-free. To ensure we use products produced as locally as possible, we’ve also been developing energy bars using locally sourced ingredients with a confectioner based at Eigergletsher – right at the foot of the Eiger!
Run the Alps: The races have seen dramatic growth since their start just seven years ago. To what do you attribute this growth?
Ralph: The mythology surrounding the Eiger and its famous North Face is the biggest reason for the growth of our event. It’s rightfully a draw for people looking to trail run in a beautiful location.
Then, our new partnership with Ultra-Trail World Tour gave us more worldwide recognition. The number of trail runners has increased and is still growing at the moment. I do not see an end to the growth anytime soon!
Run the Alps: You have a unique race, called the Trail Surprise, a 10 – 15km event, with the course announced just a few days before. Where did that idea come from?
Ralph: Over the years we’ve seen more and more families traveling to the Eiger Ultra Trail. Normally, one adult is running while the other is supporting. So, we wanted to focus the attention on the supporter for a change, and provide them with a fun trail race to do, as well. The Trail Surprise is on the Friday of our race weekend: the surprise is that we do not release details, such as the route, distance or the vertical profile of the course until three days before the race!
Run the Alps: The Eiger Ultra Trail events have a reputation for being well-organized, with lots of support. Can you give us a sense of what goes on behind the scenes, in terms of the staffing and the work, both volunteer and professional, required to pull it all off?
Ralph: The start of Eiger Ultra Trail was quite romantic. The idea was born when three friends chatted over cups of coffee – an athlete, a sport shop owner, and a mountain guide. Since then, it has grown to be a professional company with two employees sharing the equivalent of a full-time job. During the event, our core team of six grows to fifty people, and on the trails we have 500 volunteers, rescue personnel, doctors, physical therapists and first-aid staff.
Then, right after the race weekend, it’s back to the year-’round staff again.
Run the Alps: Thanks for taking the time to chat to us Ralph. See you in Grindelwald in July!
If you like the sound of the Eiger Ultra Trail, and are interested in taking part or spectating while on a trail running holiday in the region, check out our Eiger Trail Tour.
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